THE TEACHERS EDITION -- November 6, 2014

The Teachers Edition

November 6, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

students discuss "To Build a Fire"

Middle school students analyze the effects of Jack London's word choices in his short story "To Build a Fire." Here they discuss differences in meaning between the words "menacing" and "bad."


What a Difference a Word Makes

Teachers across the country are turning to the EngageNY website as a resource for materials aligned to new college- and career-ready standards and for free high-quality professional development resources. The teachers at ED like their library of instructional videos for teachers like the one above and the practical tools for parents. Learn more (Progress).


Nominate a Teacher Who Nurtures 

the Family-Education Connection

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) has begun accepting nominations for the 2015 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Award, which will present $20,000 to an exemplary teacher engaging families in education. Educators working with families through schools, libraries, and many other community-based organizations will be considered, and nominations are due December 31, 2014. 

The selected educator’s school or program will receive the $20,000 prize to increase efforts to engage families in learning together and join an elite group of educators across the country that received previous awards. NCFL will award the second prize winner $2,500. Both winners will be announced in March at the 2015 Families Learning Summit, which will be held in Houston, TX. The grand prize winner will deliver a speech to summit attendees alongside keynote speaker Leland Melvin, former astronaut, NASA deputy director, and NFL player who currently co-chairs the White House STEM Council.   

photo: "School After Hours" in DC

"After Hours," taken by Nadia U-R, reveals a snapshot into the culture of her school in Washington, D.C. after the last bell rings.


School Culture through the Student Lens

Critical Exposure is a nonprofit organization that trains youth to use photography and advocacy to make real change in their schools and communities.

For an upbeat look at what the student photographers have produced lately, take a look at the gallery of photos depicting interesting aspects of school culture. Viewers can also peruse critical documentation of the state of school facilities and images of what students view as evidence of the school-to-prison pipeline. Read an article about Critical Exposure's work on the school-to-prison pipeline in Huffington Post (Klein).

Teach to Lead update

Regional Teacher Leadership Summit Dates

The Teach to Lead team have determined dates for the upcoming Regional Teacher Leadership Summits. Teachers are invited to submit ideas for the Denver and Boston Summits. Stay tuned to the Teach to Lead site and the Teachers Edition newsletter for information. 

  • Louisville, Kentucky: December 6-7

  • Denver, Colorado: January 10-11

  • Boston, Massachusetts: February 7-8

TEACHER LEADERSHIP IN ACTION. Two compelling leadership stories have been posted on Teach to Lead

  • Leaving Her Comfort Zone to Extend Her Reach. New Jersey's Maryann Woods-Murphy worked with school faculty, administration and state organizations to re-imagine gifted education as a level to whole school reform. 

  • A Team Approach to Literacy Leadership. Maryland's Rebecca Gault worked on a team with two other teachers to improve literacy instruction at her middle school. 

IF YOU BUILD IT... Four more organizations have joined the network of supporters of Teach to Lead. They include Kentucky’s Education Professional Standards BoardGalileo Institute for Teacher Leadership at Oakland University, Kappa Delta Pi, and Metamorphosis Teaching Learning Communities, Inc. Check out the complete listing of our 51 supporters.

four students struggling with math work

At Twenhofel Middle School (Independence, Ky.), students tackle proportional relationships.


Engaging Students with “Productive Struggle”

In a new video series, folks at the Teaching Channel went inside two Kenton County (Ky.) middle school classrooms to capture Math Design Collaborative at work. Viewers can watch students having productive struggles in order to make sense of math concepts. And, get a view of teachers determining which instructional strategies will help students master rigorous standards. 


Improving the K-16 Pipeline

When colleges and K-12 schools work together, their collaboration pays off for students, according to a Blueprint for College Readiness released by the Education Commission of the States

The report’s 50-state analysis draws attention to reforms underway to align the high school and postsecondary pipeline. As a way to improve the transition from high school to college, states are implementing policies to set admissions standards, improve remedial courses and placement strategies, and strengthen transfer and articulation agreements. It’s worth a look to see how your state is doing with the top 10 critical K-12 and higher education policies promoting college readiness and success and to see what’s going on around the country.

Mrs. Obama congratulates a graduate


Create Your Own Videos Worth Watching

Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Reach Higher initiative to inspire every student in America to reach his or her “North Star,” by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. Now Mrs. Obama is offering two challenges to create videos that inspire others. Winners could earn a chance to hear the First Lady at their school or college’s 2015 commencement ceremony.  

1) The FAFSA Completion Commencement Video Challenge challenges students to produce  a 3-4 minute video that features how your school is stepping up and getting more students to complete the FAFSA.  Learn about details and eligibility

2) The Near-Peer Mentoring College Challenge is a video challenge aimed at college communities and institutes of higher education, urging post-secondary schools to increase and enhance near-peer mentoring and college immersion experiences on campus for high school students. Learn more

P Chat

Principal Chat

SCALING THE LEARNING CURVE OF TEACHER OBSERVATION. In this article, Kim Marshall offers a strategy for busy instructional leaders to accomplish high-quality supervision and evaluation of teachers (PDK's On the Edge).

TRADING PLACES. The very real consequences of principal turnover is explored in this report from the School Leaders Network. It finds that purposeful principal retention efforts are crucial to schools, teachers and students, especially in high poverty areas. “CHURN: The High Cost of Principal Turnover” emphasizes that “it takes tenacious instructional leaders, who build trust with a new faculty, set the vision for improvement and engage whole staffs in change efforts that are held over-time.” These leaders are central to implementing a vision for the school, improving teaching staff and implementing policies that impact the school’s performance. One nugget: a minimal reduction in principal turnover rates could save U.S. school districts $163 million annually. Read more.

A DAY IN THEIR SHOES. In honor of National Principals Month, Secretary Arne Duncan and ED staff spent time last week shadowing principals in schools across the country to learn more about the rewards and challenges school leaders face every day, and to gain insights into principals’ roles ensuring high-quality education. Reflecting on the mighty force of being a principal, Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia, Pa., and a Principal Ambassador Fellow, discussed challenges and ways to move mountains. Learn more (edu Pulse).

Common Core Connections

THE GOOD STUFF. Where are teachers getting the best resources to teach the Common Core? Turns out, from each other according to a report issued by the Center on Education Policy. Read an analysis of the report by Catherine Gewertz, which indicates that more than two-thirds of districts report their teachers are designing their own curricula to teach to the standards (EdWeek).

SABOTAGING COMMON CORE SABOTAGES TEACHERS AND STUDENTS. In this Bluff City Education blog, Tennessee teacher Casie Jones makes a compelling case that the new battles being fought to abandon Common Core are hurting schools. Here's an excerpt: 

"We raised the standards, showed the other states that we could rise to the competition, and have seen them start to pay off in the classroom and in student learning. And now, we declare it is just too hard or too unacceptable from an ideological perspective, and that we need to pull them out. ...The implication is disturbing; that Common Core might be TOO hard for Tennessee." Read the whole story.

the New Math

Making a Place for Unions and Reform

90 percent of parents who favor unions also favor reform.

From a parent poll recently commissioned by Education Post. Read a related editorial by Education Post's Peter Cunningham (EdWeek).Cunningham writes, "[T]he real threat to teachers' unions is not reform, but declining confidence in public education."

Learning from the Best

"Education reform will be built more on the expertise of our best teachers and less upon the fears about our worst teachers." 

(Education reporter and author Dana Goldstein at a conference for America Achieves Fellows in New York, NY, November 15.)

Quote to Note

New Green Strides Webinars

The Green Strides program offers a number of free educational webinars for educators. Here is a preview of coming attractions.

Nov. 11, 2014, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. EarthKAM – Teaching Students How to Take Pictures of the Earth (NASA)
Nov. 11, 2014, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.  Eco-Schools USA Dashboard:  Goals Metrics, Success!  (NWF)
Nov. 12, 2014, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.  Launch America:  Human Space Exploration Beyond Boundaries (NASA)
Nov. 13, 2014, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.  MAVEN:  Red Planet – Read, Write, Explore! (NASA)
Nov. 19, 2014, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. NASA’s New Horizons Mission:  Pluto Up Close and Personal (NASA) 
Dec. 2, 2014, 2:00 -  3:30 p.m. ENERGY STAR and Green Building Rating Systems  (ENERGY STAR)

Did you know?


Class Size Challenges Pervade Impoverished World Neighborhoods

The Kibera neighborhood - five kilometers outside Nairobi, Kenya - is the biggest slum in Africa, with approximately one million people living there. The only school serves the population of Kibera, including children ages 5 - 17. Some 2,200 study there in enormous class sizes of up to 90 in a lesson.

Learn more (UN Global Education First).

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• GET IN THE POLICY GAME IN NY. Hope Street Group, a national nonpartisan nonprofit that connects teachers directly to policymakers, is currently accepting applications for the New York State Teacher Fellowship. The fellowship provides teachers with opportunities to meet leading policymakers and present them with solutions for elevating the teaching profession. Teacher Fellows stay in their classrooms full time and work with Hope Street Group 10-15 hours each month, and receive a $3,500 stipend for the twelve-month fellowship. Teachers with interest and experience in teacher leadership and/or career ladder pathways are strongly encouraged to apply. Applications are due Nov. 21, 2014.

• 30 TECHNIQUES TO QUIET A NOISY CLASS. Edutopia's Todd Finley has compiled a list of resources to help quiet down a class and get them back on task, no matter the students' ages. Many of the links are helpful. We like quiet spray and Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion strategy to get 100% engagement among others.

• USING ART TO ENHANCE OBSERVATION SKILLS. Talk about arts integration! Edutopia's Denise Cassano has created a three-step guide to using art as the inspiration for effective creative writing. The steps seem intuitive (observe, infer, create), and she offers a menu of ideas to help younger and older students get through each step. Read the story.

• 50 GREAT TEACHERS. NPR has begun an interesting series profiling fifty great teachers over a year. They begin with two teachers in California who use Socratic methods to push students' thinking: AP American government teacher Maryann Wolfe and middle grades teacher Tim Ogburn. Read or listen to the story (Westervelt).

• WHAT HAPPENS TO TEST SCORES WHEN TEACHERS ARE PAID $125,000 A YEAR? The Equity Project Charter School in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan opened five years ago under a structure that cut administrators and paid teachers up to $125,000 a year. According to a Mathematica analysis, students "gradually achieved significantly higher levels of learning, with a major leap during their fourth year, equivalent to more than one and a half grade levels for math and nearly half a year for English." Read the article (Kohli, The Atlantic).

Emerging Research

WHAT MAKES STUDENTS LEARN? This useful research study by Tanner LeBaron Wallace and Vichet Chhuon provides insights into what processes help urban adolescent students of color engage (or disengage) in school. No huge surprises--they learn when they are heard and taken seriously and when they can participate enthusiastically in the course material. The examples provided fully explain these themes and provide sound advice about how to implement them in secondary classrooms. Read the study (American Educational Research Journal).

THE LATEST ON DUAL LANGUAGE USERS. Conor Williams at the New America Foundation provides summaries and links to the latest education research around dual language users, including some interesting stuff about the youngest of these learners. Read the article (Ed Central).  

open book

Recommended Reading

WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY. Rep. Mike Honda (California) penned this piece about our mutual responsibility to prevent bullying while reflecting on his experience in a Japanese internment camp during WW II. Here's an excerpt (Huffington Post):

"In the wake of the attacks on 9/11, I witnessed the Sikh American and Muslim American communities experience unfounded discrimination and bullying from their fellow Americans. Children were attacked at school, men and women were harassed and assaulted in the streets, and some men wearing turbans were killed. Unwilling to allow another dark chapter to write itself into our history, I immediately authored and sponsored resolutions, legislation, and letters to prevent our country from devolving into fear and hysteria. The Japanese Americans during WWII did not have a voice or representation to stop the atrocities from happening. It was my duty to stand up, and be that voice."

Questions or comments about The Teachers Edition? Send them to ED's Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert:

discussion in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on how her classroom has changed since she began teaching to higher standards: "Conversations look and sound differently; instead of doing more problems superficially, we are doing fewer, but in more depth." (Teacher, Los Angeles, Calif.)

4. "I was born a teacher. My sister would say that. I made her learn to read when she was like four." (Teacher, Vt.)

3. "Rural teaching is different. We don't have museums." (Teacher, Wyo.)

2. "There are problems using the word 'accountability.' Teachers think they are the only ones being held accountable. 'Mutual responsibility' is better." (Teacher, N.J.)

1. "Our biggest shift with the Common Core is an emphasis now on what kids can understand, not how well they are testing." (Teacher, Ark.)